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Jurgen & Katja Hofmann have been learning the Malagasy language in Antananarivo, Madagascar, exploring options for future service and training Malagasy Christians to reach the unreached people groups in their country. They tell us why they, with their five children, have chosen to serve in Madagascar:
Looking back to our youth, we are tremendously thankful for those who made sacrifices in order to be able to communicate the gospel to us. They gave us the opportunity to respond to the gift of forgiveness and redemption that is in our Lord Jesus. We saw that God uses people to fulfil his purposes, and ever since, the desire of our hearts has been, “Use us too, Lord!”
Eagerly looking forward to the day
The Training in Ministry Outreach (TIMO) team living among the Antakarana people on the island of Nosy Mitsio, off Madagascar, are seeing people drawing closer towards God.
“My son is dead! My son is dead!” Six year old Pa had been trampled by a stampeding herd of cattle. He was bruised all over and there was a great fear he had internal bleeding in his abdomen where he had been trodden on. Pa’s mother was terrified. Just a year earlier she had lost her other son, a one year old baby. Pa was all she had left. The whole village was in great distress.
A couple from the TIMO team living in the village were able to pray with Pa’s mother and the village headman. They alerted the rest of the team to pray also. Normally the Antakarana would call on the ancestors for help at times of great need, but the headman told his village: “Don’t worry, the white people are all praying”.
And God heard. The very next day Pa had completely recovered! Pa’s mother testified that her son was healed through the power of prayer. The Antakarana people are making careful strides towards God and we are eagerly looking forward to the day when the first islander will put their trust completely in Jesus.
Essentially that is what brought us to Madagascar: the longing to give others the chance to get to know Jesus too. Madagascar still has many people groups that are ‘unreached’. This means that these people groups lack enough followers of Christ and resources to evangelise their own people effectively. This is true for eight of the 18 people groups in Madagascar.
The difficulties in reaching these people groups are diverse. Tribalism – enmity between people groups – is a big problem. Some people groups feel that they have been wronged in the past by the ‘reached’ highland people. As a result, some unreached people are not always open to receiving missionaries from the reached highlanders and they feel the Christian faith is only for the highlanders, and not for them. Many Malagasy churches want to reach out, but they often lack the knowledge and experience to do so effectively. Also, many unreached people live in geographically difficult to reach areas, like the jungles in the east or the arid plains and deserts of the south.
The Tanala, one of the least reached people groups, live in small remote villages in the east. Jurgen visited them on a survey last April. In all the villages the response was that they would welcome missionaries as they longed to be taught what the Bible says. Their reasoning was that if the gospel is good news, then their village needed to hear it! In the last village the elders even urged them to make haste. And this is exactly what we hope to do – be the blessing to the Tanala that the people who shared the gospel with us in our youth were to us, by giving them the opportunity to respond to the good news of Jesus Christ!